Following 9/11 a new security discourse emerged to describe the security environment of the twenty-first century. The new discourse finds solid expression in the National Security Strategy of 2002 and its prescription of a security policy of pre-emption. Controversy emerges once the argument is deconstructed to reveal a policy of prevention. The policy of preventive war was operationalized in the Iraq (2003) war. Since then, a debate on the ethical implications of preventive warfare has been inaugurated. This paper can be seen in the context of this debate. The central argument is that a security policy of prevention will undermine the moral criteria which determine the ethics of force as found in the Just War tradition. The paper will use pragmatism to defend the Just War as practical.
Section II will discuss the Just War theory as part of the normative international order which determines when states should resort to force (jus ad bellum) and how hostilities ought to be conducted (jus in bello) for any war to be just. Section III will introduce the work of the late American pragmatist, Richard Rorty. Rorty’s post-philosophy rejects the search for absolutes and ahistorical Truths. In his work, moral philosophy becomes a historical narrative and historical contingency can explain why we hold the beliefs that we do. In this way, the Just War tradition is interpreted as the product of the liberal experience with war. Section IV will address the concept of preventive warfare to argue that while preemption is a well established concept in international relations, the latter is morally ambiguous as it advocates war based on suspicion. Section V will empirically illustrate the argument that a policy of preventive war undermines the Just War criteria, using the example of the Iraq war (2003) where appropriate. Finally, the concluding part will offer a pragmatic defense of the Just War.